Legend of Mana

Players: 1-2 Offline Players
Publisher: Square Enix
Genres: Action, Adventure, RPG
Release Date: June 7, 2000
Developer: Squaresoft
MSRP: $5.99
Platforms:
In this iteration of the classic Mana series, players travel through the ruined world of Fa'Diel, restoring the landscape to its former glory through the use of artifacts in a world-building multi-story RPG epic.

The standard RPG narrative features the usual expected structure of any novel or film, in that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is typical fare for the vast majority of games, and for the most part, there’s no reason to question it. On completing Legend of Mana for the first time, however, I started to become vaguely aware that this wasn’t really the case for this game. While the beginning and end were certainly there, the middle was highly mutable and large sections of it could be missing or altered with no real impact or connection to the story’s conclusion, insofar as you can call what happens at the end a “conclusion.” I’d argue that Legend of Mana doesn’t unfold like a novel or film, but more like an anthology of short stories, each with their own beginnings and endings not necessarily connected to one another. While this unconventional structure may create some confusion initially, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had in watching the strange and colourful stories that unfold therein.

PROS Lots of sidequest content and replay value, unique art and story design, fantastic soundtrack.
CONS Impossibly complex and under-explained crafting system, overly simple combat.
WTF?! For some people, the story, and lots of very alien philosophy.

Recently re-released for the PSN, Legend of Mana is the story of… a great number of things. The game starts with a standard choice of male or female protagonist and starting weapon, and then asks you to pick a section of land from a map on which to start your adventure. Then, the story starts off with a soliloquy delivered by the local deity, the Goddess of Mana, and players are then instructed to plant a bright red mailbox somewhere on your selected world map. After a brightly-coloured and somewhat confusing introductory cinematic depicting large chunks of the world disappearing, your character awakens in his or her home.

Your first task upon awakening is to step out of the house and talk to a tiny plant-creature known as a Sproutling, who informs you that the whole world may be an illusion and that you have to use special items called artifacts and your imagination to find (or possibly create) new areas to explore. You acquire the “Colorblocks” artifact at the end of this conversation, and upon leaving your home, can use them to plant the very first town you will travel to, and it becomes apparent that you will soon fill up the world map according to your whims this way.

I will do what you ask, if you would be so kind as to make sense.

From there, the game’s already confusing path starts branching immediately, as you are given several options on who to speak to and where to go next. Therein lies the game’s “middle,” which can change wildly each playthrough depending on who you talk to and what you decide to see. Over the course of the game’s many stories, you will, among other things, help an unscrupulous trickster-merchant travel the world in search of fame and riches, resolve a world-threatening love triangle between a woman, a knight, and a demon, adopt a pair of orphaned mage children, and learn to speak with a race of dog-people whose language uses only four consonants and two vowels. Three storylines in particular are meant to be the epic tales that decide the fate of the evolving world, and you can choose to participate in anywhere from one to all three of them before heading towards the story’s “conclusion.”

This short-story structure gives the narrative some unique benefits, in that it maintains the player’s interest in the world and its characters through presenting many disparate and unique events. The stories can be comedic, tragic, epic, romantic, and many points in between, and deal with a surprising breadth of themes such as free will, duty to friends, loyalty to ideals, and the meaning of sacrifice. Even the local mythology features an intriguing duality, in that Mana is said to be the source of both magical power and human emotion. When it is over-abundant, people’s feelings overwhelm their reason and conflict spreads, when it is absent, people become complacent and incapable of feeling things like love or happiness. Conflict is nuanced and the characters are fleshed out enough that you can sympathize with their feelings and reasoning, be the characters heroic, villainous, or neither.

Pages : Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4
  1. June 27, 2011 at 06:50pm
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

    Still an all time favorite for reasons both mentioned and unmentioned, though I’d dispute that the Crafting System is too complicated. Unexplained maybe, but definitely not too complicated, as researching an explanation of the crafting system (which, no, you shouldn’t have to do) explains it quite well – opening it up for use. When this was first released, I didn’t understand it, going and looking up how it worked online made me understand it.

    Therefore I have to repeat, it’s not complicated – just unexplained. They needed to explain it within the confines of the game.

  2. June 19, 2011 at 05:08pm
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    I can totally agree that the story in the game seems a bit disjointed at times. The elements are generally non-linear, short-stories leading up to the final fight. So, that leaves you with a beginning element and spending the rest of the game putting pieces together of the ending without a solid feeling that you’re working through a story to get to that point. That sort of story-telling style isn’t prominent very often. Mostly because its tough to follow.

  3. June 18, 2011 at 02:18am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    This was a pretty good game, and along with Sword of Mana were the last enjoyable games in the Mana series. It’s just too bad that they decided to ruin the series with the 3 game World of Mana debaucheries.

    Point of interest, the composer of Legend of Mana’s (Yoko Shimomura) music went on to work on Kingdom Hearts 1& 2… yes Legend’s soundtrack is damn good too!

  4. June 12, 2011 at 10:44am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    This was a well written and informative article! I’ve played Secret of Mana a crapload of times, but I shied away from this game because I felt I might get hopelessly lost within its back-and-forth level design. But now I might just give it a try.

  5. June 12, 2011 at 09:09am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: -3 (from 3 votes)

    This game sux major balls.. I thought this game was a sequel too the all time favorite Secret of Mana..

    • June 19, 2011 at 05:03pm
      In response to Shadowgam3
      VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

      It is. So much as Secret of Mana is a sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure. Or any Final Fantasy is a sequel to any other Final Fantasy. Considering the sheer amount of unrelated stories in franchises in gaming, its really a failure on your part to assume that this is a direct story sequel to Secret of Mana. This is also true since its not even the next in line in the Seiken Densetsu series that both games are a part of. Like any game in this series, its more of a spiritual successor to other games in the series.

  6. June 12, 2011 at 01:42am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Thanks, its my first time being on blistered thumbs. So my mistake, sorry.

  7. June 12, 2011 at 12:32am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Good review man, but you forgot to talk about the two player settings,since you can play with a friend or family member.And that the game has a lot of depth to the fighting.Or the Nightmare Mood setting. This game is out this world, the people who made it must have been on some heavy stuff,because,this game is perfect for me.At first, I didn’t know what was going on in the game.But,it didn’t matter, because, it got me hooked.I have never seen a rpg come close to this game when it comes to me really caring about the story and all it’s characters,besides Zelda, but then again Zelda isn’t a RPG.

    • June 12, 2011 at 01:03am
      In response to Mayanzero
      VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

      Most of what you describe I explore on page 4. I mention difficulty switching in New Game + and talk about how multiplayer exists but is problematic because of how the game constantly forces you to change who the second character in the party is.

      Decatro, as far as Seiken Densetsu 3 goes, I would also rate it slightly higher than Legend of Mana, though only because I think of it as a general improvement mechanically and story-wise over Secret of Mana. I rated Legend of Mana the way I did because I thought of the gameplay side as being a 6 while the art design side was a 9 or 10. Since I try to err on the side of gameplay, this counts as a 7.

  8. June 11, 2011 at 11:51am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Not better than Seikuden Densetsu 3 ( Secret of mana 2 ) but DEFINITELY an amazing title.

    I personally think it deserves at least an 8/10.

  9. June 11, 2011 at 10:25am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    General consensus seems to be that Secret of Mana was better for its gameplay, but I’d say it’s more that worked better as multiplayer title with tight combat while Legend of Mana is more essentially single-player. Each game has things that the other lacks, as well as differing problems, so I’d say this to prospective new Mana series players: Go for Secret of Mana if you want a good multiplayer experience and unique gameplay setup (for its time), while Legend of Mana is for people who want uniqueness in structure and artistry, while gameplay may suffer for it. I’d say the two games are equal in quality, but for different reasons.

  10. June 09, 2011 at 09:13pm
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    May i suggest those who haven’t been introduced to the series to play Secret of Mana 1-2 on SNES, much more enjoyable than this title, imo.

  11. June 09, 2011 at 10:56am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    This is a fun one but it certainly pales in comparison to either of the Secret of Mana SNES counterparts. It’s definitely a bizarre-ass game in a lot of respects and it leaves in in the dark for many parts, including significant plot events which only occur on certain days. If you manage to dig this up someplace, have gamefaqs on your bookmark bar.

  12. June 09, 2011 at 02:05am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Every time I hear the opening song for Legend of Mana, my eyes start to water. Not from pain, but from absolute love for this song. I remember playing this game with my sister back in the late 1990s, and I’m still playing it now. Thank you for the review and reminding me of that superb song. It’s nice to see classics like this game can still hold up even now-a-days. Now I must study the gamefaq guide you mentioned, otherwise I’m a bit screwed (I like to complete 100% of all RPG’s I play).

  13. June 08, 2011 at 12:26pm
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    To be honest this sounds like something I could get into. I do see how things could get very complex very quickly though. I can say for sure I like the story so far fir sure :)

  14. June 08, 2011 at 09:37am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    I have heard someone Describe this game as a painting that you play with, and i get what they mean. I have to admit i am a fanboy for this game so won’t gush i will just say that i had lots of fun with this and it pretty much helped me through some dark times, even when i couldn’t play the game anymore. I would just think of the music and some of the gorgeous and mysterious images in this game and it would remind me that there was still beauty in the world. ( sounds cheesy as hell but it is true )

  15. June 07, 2011 at 11:48am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Legend of Mana is a great game that still looks good graphically even today. I do agree with the combat being pretty simple, and the game was definitely a LOT more complicated than it told you. Like, unless you place lands in a very precise order, and do quests in an equally precise order, you won’t be able to do and see everything in the game. While, this does add a level of complexity (I guess), it is kind of a bummer when you’re flying solo without staring at a Gamefaqs guide.

    Oh, also one thing I don’t know if it was mentioned in the review (or even mentioned in the game either), for those who want to play this game. The level of enemies in an area are directly proportional to how far away the area is from your Home.

    • June 07, 2011 at 06:34pm
      In response to Aamcotronix
      VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

      It’s not mentioned in the game, but you are right about difficulty and quest options being affected by map making. I could think of a few other examples of complicated mechanics the game doesn’t bother even hinting at the existence of, but the complexity of crafting was just the most glaring example of this for me, and thus most worthy of mention. Thanks for your response.

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Legend of Mana Review

Posted by [ 2 years, 10 months ]

Eleven years ago today, Legend of Mana hit U.S. shores for the PS1. Today, I review it for Blistered Thumbs. Sorry to keep you waiting.

Legend of Mana Review

Posted By about 2 years, 10 months ago

Eleven years ago today, Legend of Mana hit U.S. shores for the PS1. Today, I review it for Blistered Thumbs. Sorry to keep you waiting.

Legend of Mana Review

Legend of Mana Review

The standard RPG narrative features the usual expected structure of any novel or film, in that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is typical fare for the vast majority of games, and for the most part, there’s no reason to question it. On completing Legend of Mana for the first time, however, I started to become vaguely aware that this wasn’t really the case for this game. While the beginning and end were certainly there, the middle was highly mutable and large sections of it could be missing or altered with no real impact or connection to the story’s conclusion, insofar as you can call what happens at the end a “conclusion.” I’d argue that Legend of Mana doesn’t unfold like a novel or film, but more like an anthology of short stories, each with their own beginnings and endings not necessarily connected to one another. While this unconventional structure may create some confusion initially, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had in watching the strange and colourful stories that unfold therein.

PROS Lots of sidequest content and replay value, unique art and story design, fantastic soundtrack.
CONS Impossibly complex and under-explained crafting system, overly simple combat.
WTF?! For some people, the story, and lots of very alien philosophy.

Recently re-released for the PSN, Legend of Mana is the story of… a great number of things. The game starts with a standard choice of male or female protagonist and starting weapon, and then asks you to pick a section of land from a map on which to start your adventure. Then, the story starts off with a soliloquy delivered by the local deity, the Goddess of Mana, and players are then instructed to plant a bright red mailbox somewhere on your selected world map. After a brightly-coloured and somewhat confusing introductory cinematic depicting large chunks of the world disappearing, your character awakens in his or her home.

Your first task upon awakening is to step out of the house and talk to a tiny plant-creature known as a Sproutling, who informs you that the whole world may be an illusion and that you have to use special items called artifacts and your imagination to find (or possibly create) new areas to explore. You acquire the “Colorblocks” artifact at the end of this conversation, and upon leaving your home, can use them to plant the very first town you will travel to, and it becomes apparent that you will soon fill up the world map according to your whims this way.

I will do what you ask, if you would be so kind as to make sense.

From there, the game’s already confusing path starts branching immediately, as you are given several options on who to speak to and where to go next. Therein lies the game’s “middle,” which can change wildly each playthrough depending on who you talk to and what you decide to see. Over the course of the game’s many stories, you will, among other things, help an unscrupulous trickster-merchant travel the world in search of fame and riches, resolve a world-threatening love triangle between a woman, a knight, and a demon, adopt a pair of orphaned mage children, and learn to speak with a race of dog-people whose language uses only four consonants and two vowels. Three storylines in particular are meant to be the epic tales that decide the fate of the evolving world, and you can choose to participate in anywhere from one to all three of them before heading towards the story’s “conclusion.”

This short-story structure gives the narrative some unique benefits, in that it maintains the player’s interest in the world and its characters through presenting many disparate and unique events. The stories can be comedic, tragic, epic, romantic, and many points in between, and deal with a surprising breadth of themes such as free will, duty to friends, loyalty to ideals, and the meaning of sacrifice. Even the local mythology features an intriguing duality, in that Mana is said to be the source of both magical power and human emotion. When it is over-abundant, people’s feelings overwhelm their reason and conflict spreads, when it is absent, people become complacent and incapable of feeling things like love or happiness. Conflict is nuanced and the characters are fleshed out enough that you can sympathize with their feelings and reasoning, be the characters heroic, villainous, or neither.

Pages: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4
  1. June 27, 2011 at 06:50pm
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

    Still an all time favorite for reasons both mentioned and unmentioned, though I’d dispute that the Crafting System is too complicated. Unexplained maybe, but definitely not too complicated, as researching an explanation of the crafting system (which, no, you shouldn’t have to do) explains it quite well – opening it up for use. When this was first released, I didn’t understand it, going and looking up how it worked online made me understand it.

    Therefore I have to repeat, it’s not complicated – just unexplained. They needed to explain it within the confines of the game.

  2. June 19, 2011 at 05:08pm
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    I can totally agree that the story in the game seems a bit disjointed at times. The elements are generally non-linear, short-stories leading up to the final fight. So, that leaves you with a beginning element and spending the rest of the game putting pieces together of the ending without a solid feeling that you’re working through a story to get to that point. That sort of story-telling style isn’t prominent very often. Mostly because its tough to follow.

  3. June 18, 2011 at 02:18am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    This was a pretty good game, and along with Sword of Mana were the last enjoyable games in the Mana series. It’s just too bad that they decided to ruin the series with the 3 game World of Mana debaucheries.

    Point of interest, the composer of Legend of Mana’s (Yoko Shimomura) music went on to work on Kingdom Hearts 1& 2… yes Legend’s soundtrack is damn good too!

  4. June 12, 2011 at 10:44am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    This was a well written and informative article! I’ve played Secret of Mana a crapload of times, but I shied away from this game because I felt I might get hopelessly lost within its back-and-forth level design. But now I might just give it a try.

  5. June 12, 2011 at 09:09am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: -3 (from 3 votes)

    This game sux major balls.. I thought this game was a sequel too the all time favorite Secret of Mana..

    • June 19, 2011 at 05:03pm
      In response to Shadowgam3
      VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

      It is. So much as Secret of Mana is a sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure. Or any Final Fantasy is a sequel to any other Final Fantasy. Considering the sheer amount of unrelated stories in franchises in gaming, its really a failure on your part to assume that this is a direct story sequel to Secret of Mana. This is also true since its not even the next in line in the Seiken Densetsu series that both games are a part of. Like any game in this series, its more of a spiritual successor to other games in the series.

  6. June 12, 2011 at 01:42am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Thanks, its my first time being on blistered thumbs. So my mistake, sorry.

  7. June 12, 2011 at 12:32am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Good review man, but you forgot to talk about the two player settings,since you can play with a friend or family member.And that the game has a lot of depth to the fighting.Or the Nightmare Mood setting. This game is out this world, the people who made it must have been on some heavy stuff,because,this game is perfect for me.At first, I didn’t know what was going on in the game.But,it didn’t matter, because, it got me hooked.I have never seen a rpg come close to this game when it comes to me really caring about the story and all it’s characters,besides Zelda, but then again Zelda isn’t a RPG.

    • June 12, 2011 at 01:03am
      In response to Mayanzero
      VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

      Most of what you describe I explore on page 4. I mention difficulty switching in New Game + and talk about how multiplayer exists but is problematic because of how the game constantly forces you to change who the second character in the party is.

      Decatro, as far as Seiken Densetsu 3 goes, I would also rate it slightly higher than Legend of Mana, though only because I think of it as a general improvement mechanically and story-wise over Secret of Mana. I rated Legend of Mana the way I did because I thought of the gameplay side as being a 6 while the art design side was a 9 or 10. Since I try to err on the side of gameplay, this counts as a 7.

  8. June 11, 2011 at 11:51am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Not better than Seikuden Densetsu 3 ( Secret of mana 2 ) but DEFINITELY an amazing title.

    I personally think it deserves at least an 8/10.

  9. June 11, 2011 at 10:25am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    General consensus seems to be that Secret of Mana was better for its gameplay, but I’d say it’s more that worked better as multiplayer title with tight combat while Legend of Mana is more essentially single-player. Each game has things that the other lacks, as well as differing problems, so I’d say this to prospective new Mana series players: Go for Secret of Mana if you want a good multiplayer experience and unique gameplay setup (for its time), while Legend of Mana is for people who want uniqueness in structure and artistry, while gameplay may suffer for it. I’d say the two games are equal in quality, but for different reasons.

  10. June 09, 2011 at 09:13pm
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    May i suggest those who haven’t been introduced to the series to play Secret of Mana 1-2 on SNES, much more enjoyable than this title, imo.

  11. June 09, 2011 at 10:56am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    This is a fun one but it certainly pales in comparison to either of the Secret of Mana SNES counterparts. It’s definitely a bizarre-ass game in a lot of respects and it leaves in in the dark for many parts, including significant plot events which only occur on certain days. If you manage to dig this up someplace, have gamefaqs on your bookmark bar.

  12. June 09, 2011 at 02:05am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Every time I hear the opening song for Legend of Mana, my eyes start to water. Not from pain, but from absolute love for this song. I remember playing this game with my sister back in the late 1990s, and I’m still playing it now. Thank you for the review and reminding me of that superb song. It’s nice to see classics like this game can still hold up even now-a-days. Now I must study the gamefaq guide you mentioned, otherwise I’m a bit screwed (I like to complete 100% of all RPG’s I play).

  13. June 08, 2011 at 12:26pm
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    To be honest this sounds like something I could get into. I do see how things could get very complex very quickly though. I can say for sure I like the story so far fir sure :)

  14. June 08, 2011 at 09:37am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    I have heard someone Describe this game as a painting that you play with, and i get what they mean. I have to admit i am a fanboy for this game so won’t gush i will just say that i had lots of fun with this and it pretty much helped me through some dark times, even when i couldn’t play the game anymore. I would just think of the music and some of the gorgeous and mysterious images in this game and it would remind me that there was still beauty in the world. ( sounds cheesy as hell but it is true )

  15. June 07, 2011 at 11:48am
    In response to Article
    VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

    Legend of Mana is a great game that still looks good graphically even today. I do agree with the combat being pretty simple, and the game was definitely a LOT more complicated than it told you. Like, unless you place lands in a very precise order, and do quests in an equally precise order, you won’t be able to do and see everything in the game. While, this does add a level of complexity (I guess), it is kind of a bummer when you’re flying solo without staring at a Gamefaqs guide.

    Oh, also one thing I don’t know if it was mentioned in the review (or even mentioned in the game either), for those who want to play this game. The level of enemies in an area are directly proportional to how far away the area is from your Home.

    • June 07, 2011 at 06:34pm
      In response to Aamcotronix
      VN:F [1.9.21_1169]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

      It’s not mentioned in the game, but you are right about difficulty and quest options being affected by map making. I could think of a few other examples of complicated mechanics the game doesn’t bother even hinting at the existence of, but the complexity of crafting was just the most glaring example of this for me, and thus most worthy of mention. Thanks for your response.

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